Locke Lord has a long history on the cutting edge of legal and market developments in the renewable energy industry, a tradition that continues to this day. Our firm founded and led the charge on behalf of the Renewable Energy Coalition for the deregulation of Texas’ energy markets in the early 2000s, opening the door for the explosive growth of wind energy development in Texas. Since then, we have built one of the nation’s leading practices representing developers, investors and lenders in the development, sale, purchase, financing and operation of renewable energy projects of all types across North America. In all of these phases, our depth of experience in the energy sector enables us to provide our clients with valuable business counsel and insight.
Project Siting and Development
Locke Lord has one the leading practices in the nation representing project developers in the siting, permitting and development of renewable energy projects. We provide strategic counsel to developers in scoping and scheduling the suite of resource assessments necessary to ensure that a project demonstrably minimizes its impact on environmental resources and the surrounding community. Our vast experience in permitting projects gives us key insights into the expectations and sensitivities of local, state and federal officials, which we use to advise our clients on methods for avoiding confrontation and delay and building support for the project. When permits are necessary, our renewable energy lawyers have a strong track record in securing needed authorizations essential to the economic success of a project, from county special use permits to major environmental and land use permits.
Wildlife and Environmental Issues
Locke Lord is recognized within the industry as having one of the leading practices representing project developers in the complex and rapidly evolving wildlife and natural resource issues that can make or break a potential project. We routinely advise clients on permitting and compliance under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act and similar state wildlife laws, as well as traditional environmental laws such as the federal Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and the myriad of laws governing issues such as water supply, waste management and spill response. The counsel we provide on these issues to many of the nation’s largest project developers goes beyond mere legal advice; we serve as a key part of the client’s project team, providing practical and strategic advice on all aspects of project permitting. In this capacity, our lawyers have played a leading role in major permitting initiatives such as the Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan, helping to devise solutions to issues that have confounded the industry and regulators, such as methods for implementing the Evidence of Absence biostatistical framework to facilitate the issuance of incidental take permits (ITPs) for endangered and threatened bats. Our experience in this area delivers real value to our clients, as we have obtained two of the only seven ITPs issued nationwide for incidental take of bats at wind energy projects, and done so on terms that have saved our clients millions of dollars in lost generation and mitigation costs.
Leasing, Tax Abatements and Local Issues
Locke Lord has been representing developers in project leasing and local government issues such as tax abatements and infrastructure agreements since the late 1990s. We have the skill and experience to effectively manage relationships with local governments and stakeholders to ensure project acceptance or successfully manage opposition elements. Our team includes some of the most experienced lawyers in the industry on these issues, enabling us to provide the kind of practical, insightful advice that can only come from deep experience and understanding of the industry.
Locke Lord has a robust practice advocating for the interests of the renewable energy industry and project developers in front of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as well as a number of state public utility commissions and energy facility siting boards. We have assembled broad coalitions of developers to lobby the FERC on critical policy initiatives involving generation interconnection, transmission and market design. Our involvement extends across all major regional transmission organization (RTO) markets including the California Independent System Operator Corp. (CAISO), Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (MISO), PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (PJM), Southwest Power Pool, Inc. (SPP), and the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO). We assist our clients by advocating in these RTOs' stakeholder processes and before the FERC and the courts. We also regularly work with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and other renewables industry organizations before the RTOs and the FERC.
Capitalizing on our deep experience in the MISO and PJM markets, Locke Lord has made numerous reactive power filings at the FERC, resulting in our clients receiving awards of millions of dollars per year for the next 30 years for existing renewable generation projects in those markets. We are at the forefront of these reactive power filings and have a deep working relationship with FERC staff who decide these cases. This is just one more example of how Locke Lord delivers tangible value to our clients.
At the state level, in addition to leading the effort to deregulate the Texas energy markets, we have played a key role in major initiatives such as the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) process. Our team includes former officials and staff members from multiple state utility commissions, enabling us to provide key insights and strategic counsel essential to navigating these complex regulatory processes.
Commercial Energy Transactions
Drawing from our deep roots in the energy space, Locke Lord’s energy lawyers bring to bear experience from a wide range of engagements in the fossil and renewable power arenas for the benefit of our clients and their projects. Our team has handled myriad power development, supply, trading, retailing and lending issues for clients in their development efforts, giving us an intimate understanding of the interrelation of each aspect of the business. More than just negotiating a power purchase agreement, we are able to advise our clients on matters such as how retail customer credit quality will impact the wholesale supply and financing of generation development. When typical structures will not work, this deep understanding of the energy markets gives us the ability to propose creative solutions to achieve our clients’ desired results.
Project M&A, Financing and Tax Credits
We represent developers, investors and project owners in the sale and purchase of renewable energy projects and assets, both domestically and internationally. We routinely negotiate asset and equity purchase agreements, project governance documents and other critical project agreements. For proposed investments and acquisitions, our extensive experience in project development enables us to provide comprehensive yet efficient analyses during the due diligence process, including the evaluation of environmental and permitting risks, the assessment of the real property and other rights and assets essential to a project and the review of applicable federal and state regulatory and tax issues, including tax credits and other incentives.
Our energy lawyers have played a key role in the financing of thousands of megawatts of wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy projects. We combine the broad energy finance experience of one of the nation’s leading energy practices with detailed knowledge of the tax credits and structuring considerations specific to the planning, financing, construction and operation of renewable energy facilities. Our tax lawyers have extensive experience in analyzing and applying IRS and Treasury guidelines with respect to beginning of construction requirements for certain renewable energy projects, and placing such projects into service for federal income tax purposes in a matter that maximizes eligibility for tax credits.
Unlike many firms that focus exclusively on project finance, our knowledge of the commercial issues and our experience in siting, permitting, real estate, regulatory and other aspects of project development means that we can often handle the local counsel issues in house as well as provide more practical and insightful due diligence support. This enables us to provide broader and more cost-effective representation for our clients in both project financing and mergers and acquisitions involving project developers, portfolios or individual projects.